Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Committee Chair

Hany Ammar

Committee Co-Chair

Tim Menzies

Committee Member

Hany Ammar

Committee Member

Tim Menzies

Committee Member

Ali Mili

Committee Member

Mario Perhinschi

Committee Member

Ramana Reddy


Software design is a process of trading off competing objectives. If the user objective space is rich, then we should use optimizers that can fully exploit that richness. For example, this study configures software product lines (expressed as feature models) using various search-based software engineering methods. Our main result is that as we increase the number of optimization objectives, the methods in widespread use (e.g. NSGA-II, SPEA2) perform much worse than IBEA (Indicator-Based Evolutionary Algorithm). IBEA works best since it makes most use of user preference knowledge. Hence it does better on the standard measures (hypervolume and spread) but it also generates far more products with 0 violations of domain constraints. We also present significant improvements to IBEA's performance by employing three strong heuristic techniques that we call PUSH, PULL, and seeding. The PUSH technique forces the evolutionary search to respect certain rules and dependencies defined by the feature models, while the PULL technique gives higher weight to constraint satisfaction as an optimization objective and thus achieves a higher percentage of fully-compliant configurations within shorter runtimes. The seeding technique helps in guiding very large feature models to correct configurations very early in the optimization process. Our conclusion is that the methods we apply in search-based software engineering need to be carefully chosen, particularly when studying complex decision spaces with many optimization objectives. Also, we conclude that search methods must be customized to fit the problem at hand. Specifically, the evolutionary search must respect domain constraints.